ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Guinea was chosen to host the 2023 African Cup of Nations in an unscheduled vote on Saturday, with African football head Issa Hayatou describing the surprise decision as a display of "solidarity" with the Ebola-hit country.
The Confederation of African Football announced Cameroon as host of the 2019 Cup of Nations and Ivory Coast for 2021, but wasn’t scheduled to vote on who would stage the 2023 tournament.
"CAF wanted to show solidarity with the people of Guinea in this hard time," Hayatou said at the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia.
Yet CAF President Hayatou also announced after a two-day meeting of the executive committee that the ban on games in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia would remain in place until further notice because of the worst Ebola outbreak ever recorded.
Nearly 500 people have died of the deadly virus in Guinea in an outbreak which swept into Sierra Leone and Liberia. The total death count in the three countries stands at over 2,000, according to the World Health Organization.
Bringing a week of meetings in Ethiopia to a close, Africa’s football body repeated its backing for FIFA President Sepp Blatter for re-election next year, with Hayatou praising Blatter by saying the 78-year-old Swiss helped Africa host its first World Cup in South Africa in 2010.
Blatter has announced he will stand for a fifth term in May.
"We wouldn’t have trusted him (Blatter) had we not seen what he had done for us in the past," Hayatou said. "He has helped us host the World Cup. Actually, I would have been FIFA president by now had it not been for Africa’s rejection (of me) for the post back in 2002."
Hayatou challenged Blatter for the FIFA presidency in 2002 and lost.
Africa has been a strong supporter of Blatter since he took FIFA’s top position in 1998, and CAF had already declared its support for him at the FIFA Congress in Brazil before this year’s World Cup.
There was "unanimous support" for Blatter from CAF’s executive committee, the confederation said on Saturday.
The votes ensured West Africa will have three straight African Cups from 2019-23, with Cameroon — Hayatou’s home country — hosting for the first time since 1972. Ivory Coast last held the championship in 1984. Guinea has never staged it.
Algeria and Zambia failed in their bids to host one of the cups in 2019 and 2021.
CAF’s extension of the ban on games in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia means Guinea and Sierra Leone could be forced to play all their remaining 2015 African Cup qualifiers outside their home country while authorities battle to get Ebola under control. Guinea played its first home game in the ongoing qualifiers in neutral Morocco, and Sierra Leone is planning to play its home games in Congo. Liberia isn’t part of the final qualifiers.
Morocco will stage next year’s 16-team African Cup, but the 2017 version doesn’t have a host after Libya pulled out citing security concerns, forcing CAF to re-start the bidding process.
Ethiopia and Zimbabwe have stated their intention to bid, while Algeria, Kenya, Ghana and Mali have also expressed interest. CAF gave countries a deadline of Sept. 30 to lodge their bids and the winner will be chosen next year.
Zimbabwe’s sports minister said this week that its economic troubles may force it to seek financial support for its bid from original host Libya, which he called an "all-weather friend of Zimbabwe."
Zimbabwe could also revive discussions on a joint bid for 2017 with northern neighbour Zambia after Zambia missed out on 2019 and 2021.